I can’t think of any other wine that represents such a polemic.
You can almost predict what folks will think and say about it, just by reading their bank statements or passport stamps, assuming that they’d let you read those sorts of things. But I think there are really only four true stances on the subject of pink wine:
1) That of those that spent time in Provence and developed a taste for it.
2) That of those that cut their wine teeth on the stuff, thus are convinced that it just can’t be any good, the enogastronomic version of your high school haircut.
3)That of those that see it as a great summery picnic wine.
4) That of us here, who have been enjoying pink wine longer than anyone else in all of Italy. We love the stuff! And we drink not just more of it, but we drink differently too.
Wait, I better explain.
Like beauty itself, grape colour is only skin-deep. You can make red wine from red grapes but you can also make white wine (as in champagne, or at least a portion of champagne) from red grapes. You do this by pressing the grapes and then removing the juice right away, not leaving the juice in contact with the skins.
But a nifty thing happens if you step out to lunch or go to bed for the night while making white wine from red grapes, before you separate the skins from the pulp: the prettiest colours come forth. As do the more assertive flavours and tannins. Think of pink wine as a gutsier form of white wine, rather than a wimpy red. Flavour-wise, that’s exactly where it lives.
The first pink wine in all of Italy has bottled here, in the Salento, the piece of land that I love more than any other. It’s always placed an important here in the food. If you are one to follow ‘if they grow together they go together’, then the food of Salento certainly developed alongside pink wine. Perhaps even more so than the world famous reds.
But let’s return to our list and take a glance at each:
Pink wines have been very popular in Latin Europe for a long time, enjoyed for their playful, summer-on-the-terrace sort of feel, the sun passing through the glass, dancing in pink ripples across your tan knuckles and then white table cloth. Pinks SEEM like the kind of wine one should drink while on holiday, like linen shorts or sarongs, just in a glass.
And as for the South of France, this isn’t the first time that the world owes a culinary debt to the French. As Provence is the ‘Tuscany’ of France, it’s where the tourists go, only to return home with a desire to reconnect with their time there. And while the pink wines of Southern France seem often a bit too simplistic to my tongue, each time I do drink one, it does occur to me that I need to visit Arles again, perhaps this time while wearing a beret and a boating shirt.
For 2), it’s not pink wines fault but for some reason they were marketed as entry level wines, wine for those that were moving away from cocktails with umbrellas and names that would cause your own mother to smack your cursin’ mouth. That was accomplished by playing to the cheap seats, that is, those that expected their alcohol to be sweet. Perhaps you remember those days. Perhaps you’re still friends with the woman that held your hair afterward.
If you want to hate those wines from the disco days in order to mark you arrival into sophistication, hate them because they were non-dessert wines that were sweet, a style of wine that today couldn’t be more out of fashion. Like people, if you have to hate, hate them for the lack of character, rather than their colour.
And most visitors that come to our school here in Italy seem to say the same thing, that rosès are great summer wines. Fresh, young and zippy, pink wines seem to dance when the summer sun passes through them, stunners there in the glass.
And then there is us, who drink pink wine all year long because it’s good. And because, what else are you going to drink with a grilled octopus? A white is too light, a red too heavy. Singe the fatty skin of a really fresh mackerel over an olive wood fire and an assertive glass of dry pink has the backbone to match it, complimentary flavours for the heavier, lighter dishes, if that makes any sense.
I just took a break from writing this and visited Mimmino, my trusted fishmonger for the last ten years. In the bottom of my refrigerator are now two fresh Mediterranean tuna steaks, which I’ll just sear for a few seconds in a scorching hot pan. But open the door of my refrigerator and take a peak: Next to Mimmino’s fish is a bottle of pink, the two such age old friends in these parts that you’ll rarely see one without the other.
And unlike haircuts or musical trends or dance styles, somethings are timeless, classic, preserved for no reason any loftier than the fact that they are just plain, good.